The seasonal pattern of concentrations of nitrogen, starch and vegetative storage protein (VSP) in stolons of Trifolium repens L. grown in the field were studied. Two different genotypes, cv. Aran and cv. Rivendel, differing in their morphology (stolon thickness and branching rate) but with similar growth rates, were used. Maximum concentrations of starch were found in summer whereas hydrolysis of starch took place throughout winter, suggesting that C storage is more important for winter survival than for promotion of early spring growth. On the other hand, VSP and nitrogen accumulated in autumn and early winter and then decreased when growth was resumed during early spring. For both cultivars, an inverse relationship was found between VSP concentration in stolons and mean air temperature, suggesting that VSP accumulation may be triggered by low temperature. Further experiments with plants grown under different regimes of temperature and daylength, suggested that VSP synthesis is stimulated by low root temperatures, with a slight synergistic effect of short daylength.
The effects of root temperature on growth, N2 fixation, NH4+ uptake and N allocation within Trifolium repens L., were studied under controlled conditions. The shoot growth rate was greatly reduced when root temperatures were lowered from 12 to 6°C, while the rate of stolon growth was less affected. Low root temperatures inhibited N2 fixation more than it did NH4+ uptake, but the relative allocation of N to stolons was increased. Lowering root temperature also increased the accumulation of VSP in stolons. These results are discussed in terms of the mechanism associated with low temperature stimulation of VSP accumulation and its coupling with changes in the source/sink relations for allocation of N, between growth and storage.